Bad luck is just good luck with a hangover.
Bad luck is just good luck with a hangover.
Mary was angry. Here it was two days before Christmas, she was in a town she didn’t know, a new job she didn’t like, she had no friends and no family close by, and some dirty bum had his hand out looking for money. And on top of all that, he had the unmitigated gall to be smiling as if he was happy.
Mary wasn’t smiling. In fact she was absolutely miserable. Christmas was just another day on the calendar, it had no real meaning. People went into stores and spent a ridiculous amount of money on gifts for other people that the other people really didn’t want. Christmas wasn’t even for the children. It was just another way to teach them about how money makes the world go round. If you had money it was a good life. If you did not then you starved and were miserable, and you should look like you were miserable.
Mary approached the man that she called a bum. She was frustrated, she was angry, and she needed this person to explain to her how he could be so damn happy. Maybe he was on drugs or maybe he was crazy, but Mary didn’t think so. Of course she did drop a twenty dollar bill into his tin can before she posed her question.
“Are you alright? You are sitting here on a cold sidewalk asking for money. All around you is obscene wealth. How can you sit there and smile when you have nothing and so many people around you are spending money like it is water and on frivolous things? You look like you need food and these people are buying toys for people who really don’t want them. How can you sit there and smile? I’ve seen you everyday for the last week and you smile everyday, you wish people a Merry Christmas, or Happy Hanukkah, or Happy Kwanza and I don’t understand how you can actually be happy!”
At this point Mary was almost in tears. She felt so alone and so unloved that she felt jealous of this destitute individual. She wanted to shake him to make him see what an awful place the world was but she didn’t. What she did do was pause for a breath and what she saw then took that breath away.
Just a moment before she had been looking at a dirty bum and now he had taken on a dignity that belied her original perception. He sat up straighter and his smile became wider. Even his eyes seemed to twinkle with a secret knowledge. There was a beauty to his face that she had not noticed before. His voice, when he spoke, was strong and melodic. The words he spoke were the truth.
“But I have everything. Someone gave me a coat to keep me warm. He gave me the gift of warmth. People stop and give me their spare change, a cup of coffee, or a sandwich. A small child gave me a penny. A penny to a small child is like a million dollars to a billionaire. A beautiful woman gave me her scarf to warm my neck. An old man gave me a warm pair of gloves. All I have to offer them in return is my smile and my best wishes. Some people are embarrassed and hurry on but others take it in the spirit in which it is given. Some people give of themselves, and that is what makes me the wealthiest of people.”
Mary thought about what this person had just said to her. It was starting to make sense. The importance of the season was not the gift; it was not the thought of the gift. That was all meaningless. What was important was the giving of one’s self willingly.
The next day Mary went into work. She felt a little lighter, a little happier. She looked around her with a new perspective: people were giving of them selves; the gifts they were giving were simply an extension of their spirit. Sometimes the gifts were expensive, sometimes the gifts cost only pennies and sometimes it was only a word and a hug. But these people were giving, Mary saw that now. And Mary started giving as well.
It was Christmas Eve now and Mary wanted to share with the homeless man what she had learned. She stopped at the bank and took out one hundred dollars. She placed the money in an envelope and tucked that into the pocket of her coat. With a smile on her face she went looking for the homeless man.
But he wasn’t there. Mary walked up and down the street looking for him. She asked shop keepers if they had seen him but everyone was too busy and said they didn’t remember. So Mary continued on her walk home. She was sad now that she couldn’t share with the man who had taught her so much. She wondered where he had gone and what he was doing for Christmas.
Just two blocks before Mary reached her apartment building was a small church. Mary had seen the structure before but had never ventured in. Today her feet took her over the threshold and into the church. She sat quietly in one of the back pews and looked up into the beautiful stained-glass windows. She felt at peace. As her eyes wandered over the beautiful paintings, a figure seemed to stand out: it was of man who was seated on the ground and his hand was outstretched as if beckoning. Her eyes widened in recognition and then she shook her head, it was not possible.
As Mary turned over in bed that night, she replayed in her head what she had learned and she smiled. She had left the envelope with the money in the church; she knew it was the right thing to do. Never again would she forget just how valuable it is to interact with other people. Giving of one’s self is as simple as smiling. He had taught her that.
Sorry everyone, it has been a busy week and the post I had planned is not quite ready. I hope this little story will amuse you in the mean time.
Lea looked around her and smiled. Life was good. She felt as if she was on top of the world. Which in fact, was not too far from the truth. She was high enough to look down on the teeming masses and feel superior.
A gentle breeze moved around her and she shivered in delight. With the sun on her face and the faintest wafts of air to keep the bugs at bay there was no other place Lea would have preferred to be. Here she could while away the days in thought and feeling. The whole experience was a hedonistic surplus of sensation.
It is dangerous to spend all of one’s time in the near sighted pursuit of just one ideal. With the passage of time comes change.
Lea woke one morning to a strange feeling of fear. She really didn’t understand the sensation but she was sure she didn’t like it. Carefully she glanced around her. Everything seemed unchanged. The people she could see were scurrying about their daily lives. The sun was in the sky, the wind was quiet but still there. It had rained over the last few days but that was not unusual and it even made the world seem a little crisper, more alive. But something was different.
Lea didn’t live in her little aerie alone, she had neighbours. When she finally deigned to actually acknowledge them, she discovered that they had changed. Perhaps they had spent too much time in the sun because they were definitely a different colour. Not an unpleasant shade of red but it did depend on your tastes. Once again Lea felt superior. She wasn’t going to change, not her.
There are few inevitabilities in life, death and taxes not withstanding. The passage of time can never be halted no matter how much we may want it and with that passage also comes change. We can rail against it all we want but change happens.
It had been a few weeks since Lea had first noticed the changes in her neighbours and she was horrified to see that they seemed to have accepted it. It must be because they were old, past their prime. Not like her. Although, in the last few weeks she had been feeling a little tired, not her usual perky self. It must be the weather. The wind was blowing a little harder and the sun wasn’t nearly as warm as it had been. Lea was sure that it would all pass and that one day soon everything would be back to normal. It had to, she wouldn’t accept anything else.
The next day Lea woke feeling cold and sore. She looked to her neighbours and saw that they were gone. She made the effort to look around her and noticed that all of her neighbours had gone. She was alone. The people below were fewer and those she could see were not enjoying the day like they used to, they seemed to be in a hurry. It is hard to feel sanctimonious when you are alone.
A few days later Lea did not wake up. The wind was blowing hard and crisp. The sun seemed lower in the sky, almost as if it too was finding it difficult to rise in the morning. The warm days of summer had come to an end and the cool winds of change had brought the autumn. With her many neighbours Lea now formed a blanket of leaves beneath her cherished trees. The seasons changed once more.
We may have come a long way in fifty or even a hundred years but have we learned the right lessons?
Just because I can, doesn’t mean I will.
So long ago a child was born
In swaddling clothes He lay
Sheep and cattle gathered near
And wise men kneeled to pray
As time went by upon the earth
This child had years to grow
Once He sought a temple’s scribes
To tell them what to know
The Son did speak His Father’s words
Of love and trust and truth
Others must be taught to know
The principles of this youth
He lived His life each every day
By the tenets of which he spoke
They form the basis of our lives
As one we must invoke
So long ago a man did die
In swaddling clothes he lay
He gave His life for all of us
And now it’s time to pray
Just like the ‘powers that be’ want us to live in a “paperless society” they also seem to want us to do that scent free. As I look around my cluttered, paper strewn desk, I chuckle. Scent free? Impossible!
”Fragrance Free Space!” “Scent Free Zone!” ”We Share the Air!” I can understand asking people to refrain from wearing perfume and cologne. (The way some people marinate in their choice of scent is quite nauseating. But I digress.) The Purveyors of Scents is a multi billion dollar business. They will not go quietly into that good night.
It used to be quite common for women and indeed men to adorn themselves with particular scents. People became known by the way they smelled. Some were flowery, some were exotic and others were, well, to each their own. I once was attracted to a man who always wore the same cologne which I found quite heady. So much so that when I smelled it in a grocery store my heart started to flutter. Imagine my chagrin when I turned around and it was being worn by a woman. Man, I can still smell that cologne!
But over the years I became sensitive. If you are wearing too perfume I might actually have a coughing fit. It’s not an attractive look for me. And I am not alone in this. Hence the signs asking people to refrain. And this is where it gets interesting.
A friend came over and I started to cough. Like I said it’s not a good look for me. I explained that it was probably her perfume that had set me off. She said she wasn’t wearing any. When she was seated across the room we started to take stock. Shampoo, body lotion, face cream, deodorant, lipstick, makeup, laundry detergent, dryer sheets . . . are you starting to get the picture? There are scents in everything!
I buy non-scented laundry detergent and dryer sheets. They still have perfume in them but it is much milder than the scented ones. Mild but not completely absent. Buying deodorant or anti-perspirant is not a case of what works best, it’s a case of what smell I can handle. It’s the same with shampoos. There are chemically added smells to just about everything!
I love the smell of the earth in the spring with just a hint of rain in the air. I love the smell of grass growing in the dirt or wind straight off the lake. I love the smell of snow and pinecones. I love the smell of the mountain breezes. I love natural smells. But the ones that are created by chemical means are offensive. With all the technology that exists in this world and we can’t figure out how to make natural scents using natural products in a natural way? No. People do love their chemicals!
When I was younger we used to go camping and one of the things you learn early on is to leave your perfumes at home. They just attract the bugs. After a week without perfume and deodorant and body lotion stinking up nature we all smelled a little ripe. It was an honest smell and since we all smelled the same way it became less offensive. Actually you don’t even notice it after awhile. I get that wouldn’t work in the offices of today but surely we can figure something out.
Maybe instead of trying to go scent free, we should more accurately try to be scent tolerable. Fewer chemicals and more naturals. What I’m I thinking? That will never happen. We are talking about a multibillion-dollar business. And as we all know: money speaks loudly!
The Rocket watched carefully. His target was near. Once again his skill and his daring would be their undoing. A young man who went by the moniker The Rocket was feeling a need: a need to take. He watched as a slightly older than middle-aged woman stopped to root in her purse for something. With a quick glance around him he darted out from his hiding place between the buildings. He stopped only for a smile, to tip his hat and to say “thank you” as he relieved the shocked individual of her purse.
As The Rocket darted away down the street he was laughing at his daring. It never failed to amuse him that it was so easy to swipe a purse in broad daylight. His feet had carried him a mere 10 feet before they betrayed him. Without time to understand what was happening to him The Rocket watched as the pavement rose up to meet his face. He dropped the purse he had just liberated in an attempt to protect himself. Just before he reached the ground, he heard a voice.
“Once you’ve finished your fall I would suggest you stay there.” An ominous voice instructed.
“What the . . . !”
“Watch your language young man. There are ladies present.”
The Rocket tried to sit up but realized that there were something sticking in the middle of his back keeping him down and it hurt. As a matter of fact most of him hurt. Someone had tripped him!
A moment went by as The Rocket collected his thoughts.
“That’s better Richard. You might want to get up off the pavement. It is a little undignified.” That voice again!
“That’s not my name!” As he stood up, the boy known as The Rocket looked at the man who seemed to be the cause of his most recent fiasco.
“Your name is Richard Dunston. You are 14 years old and have been in and out of juvenile hall for two years. Your mother is so worried that she asked me to take you under my wing. So why don’t you sit down here and we can get to know each other a little better.”
The newly identified Richard stood staring at this old man with a cane and dog. He couldn’t think of anything to say. So he said nothing. He also wanted desperately to run away but he realized now who exactly was sitting on the park bench. This man probably had Richard’s future in his hands. So Richard, formerly known as The Rocket, sat down.
If anyone had bothered to look they would have seen an elderly gentleman of some distinction sitting quietly beside a young boy. At the feet of the gentleman was an obviously excited dog. It seemed as if everyone was waiting for something to happen.
Not a moment later the woman who had previously been relieved of her purse approach the park bench. She was smiling. She retrieved her purse from where it had fallen on the sidewalk and nodded her head at the two men.
“Good job done Superintendent, you were right. Shall I leave him in your hands?”
“Yes thank you Constable. I’ll call in my report later.”
“Good luck kid. You’ll need it.”
The now identified policewoman took her purse, straightened her back and walked purposefully away. Richard a.k.a. The Rocket stared at her retreating back with something akin to horror. He had been set up! By an old man and a girl! He would never live this down.
“How? How did you know?” He just kept repeating one word: how?
“Well son, do you know what a modus operandi is?” Richard just looked blank.
“I’ll take that as a no. I guess I should introduce myself.” So for the next few minutes Brett did just that. As Richard listened he felt more and more at a loss. His life was changing drastically.
Brett Bramwell Kirkland was a retired Police Superintendent. He had worked for 37 years with a near spotless record. The only complaint ever made against him simply reinforced his image of impartiality and of doing the right thing regardless of cost. Four years ago his wife of fifty two years had died. He kept in touch with his four children and their families but he lived alone except for Ten-four: a small West Highland Terrier. His name Ten-four, in police language means everything is fine. The dog was given to Brett by his grandson.
Nowadays Brett could be found walking his dog in this neighbourhood almost every day or lounging on this particular park bench. Which is how Richard’s mother knew where to go when she needed help.
Richard was on a path of destruction. He fought, he drank and he stole. He had been in trouble with the police and his next step would probably land him in a penitentiary. So Brett had been prevailed upon to help.
“You make a lousy criminal kid.” Brett spoke quietly. Richard balled his hands and looked as if he wanted to start a fight.
“I can keep you from jail and alive, but you have to do something for me.”
“I don’t gotta do nuthin you say!” Richard was definitely spoiling for a fight. He jumped up from the park bench and turned to face his accuser.
“Oh sit down. You give me a hard time, I call the cops, you go to jail. How long you go to jail will depend on what my mood is. So it is in your best interest to do as I say.” The quiet authority with which this man spoke caused the young criminal to re-think his situation.
Richard was starting to understand that he was stuck between a rock and hard place. So he sat down, he figured it wouldn’t hurt to listen.
First of all, you are going to return all the items still in your possession that belong to other people. Next, you are going to meet the principal of the high school and make arrangements to get back in school. Then you are going to write letters to all the people whose names I will give you, that you have stolen from. The police keep very good records. And finally, you’re going to get a job. That job is to be my assistant. Ten-four needs to be walked regularly and I’m sure I can think of a great many other activities to keep you out of trouble. I’ll pay you what you’re worth so you had better do a good job.
Poor Richard looked as if he were ready to cry. All the fight had gone out of him. He had met his match. He reached down to scratch the silly white dog’s head. Maybe things weren’t that bad. The old man had a cute dog.
“Hey mister, how’d you know I’d be here today?”
“Modus operandi. It is a Latin phrase that means method of operating. People do the same thing out of habit. It’s those habits that make criminals easy to catch. People do the same things the same way almost every time.”
Richard thought for a moment and then realized he’d just been taught a life lesson. People were predictable. It’s what made understanding them a possibility.
“So what’s your modus operandi?” Richard asked of the older man.
The retired superintendent smiled, “I catch thugs for breakfast.”
The two men sat beside each other on the park bench. Each set in their ways but ready to face the changes the world would force upon them. At their feet quietly sat a small white dog, he too was waiting for a change.
“How about a walk in the park?”
A Time For Change ( June 2013)
No I am not talking about changing your politics or changing your underwear . . . although . . . never mind. I am talking about changing attitudes. Not everyone has a problem with people who are different, just a notable minority. That process of changing their attitudes is on going and never ending. Where we can make a huge difference is in ourselves, our attitudes. Yes we are ambassadors for everyone in a wheelchair but we are also ambassadors to ourselves.
I have often joked that the legs at the end of my hips weren’t mine. They certainly were not acting like we had any kind of relationship. I couldn’t walk, I couldn’t stand and if I wanted to move my foot I had to use my hands to do it. Ever since I was told that I needed to give myself permission to fail occassionally I have been rethinking my legs. Because I have no other legs to change to I will have to find a way to get along with the ones I have. As a parent did you ever have a child that would not listen to you, would not obey any rules you laid down? Those without children, did you ever have a dog that refused to come when you called? Well my errant appendages are like that. Did you stop loving your child or your dog because of a difference of opinion? No, you found a way to make it work. I have an arm that is awkward to use. It doesn’t open properly and I can’t straighten it out fully. So I do more things with my other arm. I adapt. People are capable of adapting to almost any situation it just takes time and effort, and a lot of thought.
I spoke to a man once who had lost one leg to diabetes. He was inquiring about buying my van. During the course of the very pleasant conversation I learned that he had just recently lost his leg. I was surprised. My illness came on me very slowly over a period of years. He went from two legs to one in a matter of minutes. I don’t care how much you prepare for such an event it must have been traumatic. This man was upbeat, laughing, totally in control. He had made peace with his situation and was in the process of adapting to it. This man was and is an inspiration to me. Here I am frustrated with my legs and he is moving on with his life. I must admit I was a little ashamed of myself. I can get hung up with such unimportant things. I am a well-adjusted (sort of), intelligent woman. I can adjust when I need to, it just takes a little effort. And perhaps a change of attitude.
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Living life with a chronic illness is definitely not easy. But I do my best to push through all the barriers this illness puts in front of me! In my heart and mind, I believe maintaining a positive outlook on all situations in life will carry us through to much better times! I hope you find the information that I provide both helpful and inspirational!
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Retired from the University of Texas and too old to play soccer anymore. Now, in the twilight of his years, time is spent writing in this blog, hiking and exploring Texas Parks, photography, working out, gardening and tending to the five ponds he built .
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Just lose yourself this little while, in poetry, books, art and smile! :)
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